ANGRY residents living near Holyrood Park are calling for tougher controls on “irresponsible” dog owners after a chicken was mauled by a hound which escaped into a garden.
Steven Thomson watched in horror from his kitchen window on Ulster Crescent as a spaniel attacked one of his hens, before he quickly ran out to wrench the dog away. The bird was so badly injured that it had to be put down.
Steven, 38, said it wasn’t the first time he had experienced problems with dogs getting into his garden and a minority of owners failing to keep their pets under control.
Other residents have raised concerns about the number of professional dog walkers now using the park, saying so many now park their vans by the park gates that it often blocks the road and some don’t keep all the dogs in their charge under proper control.
Recalling the moment his hen was attacked, Mr Thomson said: “I was looking out the back window and my instinct just kicked in, I quickly ran over and wrenched the hen away from the dog’s mouth. After that, it seemed quite placid, but when I properly looked at it, I realised I had seen it around before. When I confronted the owner about it, he didn’t seem bothered in the slightest, he even offered to buy me another chicken but I tried to explain that this wasn’t the first time it had got into my garden.
“I’ll look out the window and sometimes see one person with six to eight dogs. How are they able to keep tabs on all of them? It’s impossible for that to be safe.”
Ulster Crescent and the surrounding streets are a magnet for parking dog walkers due to their close proximity to Arthur’s Seat and Holyrood Park.
However Mr Thomson said dog walkers often “don’t care” about local residents’ concerns or the increased volume of traffic in the area.
Brian Armstrong, owner of professional dog walking service Walkies, said unregulated dog walkers are a “constant issue”, adding: “The majority of people who walk dogs for a living do so responsibly and use their common sense by keeping the dogs on a leash while they are in a residential area.
“However, those who are unlicensed often flout these rules with no care for either the animal or local residents. They are irresponsible and should not be allowed to care for animals of any kind.”
Edinburgh council says it encourages dog walkers to sign up to a parks code of conduct which includes a number of provisions for both professional dog-walkers and pet owners to follow. Questions however are being asked about the lack of any apparent checks on the code or enforcement for dog walkers who break it.
Included in the code are suggestions that dog walkers use the park “with consideration and respect for other park users, with a care for the environment, with responsibility for the safety of others and themselves.”
It continues: “Parks and Greenspace are integral to our communities. They serve as a stage for our public lives, are settings where celebrations are held, where social exchanges take place, where friends mix, where cultures overlap, where nature thrives and where people revive themselves from the stresses of urban living.”
“Positive and respectful behaviour from all users is fundamental to the quality of our parks and greenspace.
“With large numbers of dogs, professional walkers have the potential to cause a significant and negative impact on the park environment and the enjoyment and safety of other users.
“By subscribing to the following code of conduct, professional walkers can minimise this impact, set a positive example to other dog walkers and deliver a safe and quality service for their clients.”
However the code is not mandatory as the regulation of parks and green spaces is still controlled by the Scottish Government.
Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SSPCA) Chief Superintendent Mike Flynn said, “Any dog, regardless of its breed, can be aggressive through an owner’s lack of training or through deliberate encouragement of bad behaviour.
“It is ultimately the responsibility of the owner to ensure their pet is kept under control at all times. Anyone with an animal that shows aggression towards another animal or person has a responsibility to rectify this problem immediately through training or veterinary advice.”